Setting up a curriculum for children with Autism

Sulata Ajit
Director – Special Education
Sankalp – The Learning Centre
Annanagar West,

Children with autism perceive the world very differently and hence their learning and working styles are different. They have an innate ability to learn if taught in his/ her own learning style. Most of them are visual learners.

It is a challenge to create a curriculum for these children as no two children have the same strength and needs. Before introducing a learning programme one must know the current abilities of the child and accordingly choose the appropriate programme. One must also be aware of the following questions.

  • Does your child have the necessary prerequisite skills for the programme?
  • Is the programme develop mentally / age appropriate
  • Will this skill help to reduce problem behaviours?
  • Can the skill be generalized?

Strengths of children with ASD.

  • High visual memory
  • Ability to discriminate between pictures
  • Ability to match similar objects, pictures etc.
  • Ability to identify particular visual
  • Scanning speed
  • A glance of few seconds is enough to look at pictures
  • Due to photographic memory, register the position of the visual
  • Once registered the image stays forever due to photographic memory
  • Functional association
  • Anything that is functionally used is understood better (e.g. follows instructions during snack time)
  • Independent in everyday activities like eating, computer games etc.
  • Follow routine
  • Function effectively when the environment is predictable
  • Structure and organization increases the progress.

Difficulties of children with ASD

  • Communication
  • Difficulty in verbal output
  • Difficulty spontaneous response
  • Difficulty in answering open ended questions like what did you do today?
  • Difficulty in expressing emotions like boredom, upset, anger and fear.
  • Difficulty in asking questions to get more information.

Indicators for reading skills:
Shows interest in printed matter, advertisements, banners etc.
– Watches captions on TV.

Start with whole words.
Nouns, then adjectives, verbs, adverbs, propositions.

Teaching Nouns:
Labelling – Pointing to the flashcard and naming before using the object.

Evaluation :
– Remove cards and ask the child to replace.
– Labels on similar jars, child picks up that he wants (jars to be shuffled often)

Teaching Verbs:
Matching picture – verb
Showing card, naming and performing activity.
It is important to introduce verbs of interest and verbs that have a functional use and can be used in many situations.
Ex: Open (applicable to door, box, fridge, gate, book, bottle, etc)
Games / Exercises practiced could be introduced through cards.

Teaching Adjectives / Adverbs:
For sorting / identification
Combined with verbs/nouns to form 2 word phrases.
Red doll, blue ribbon etc.,
Choose activities of interest – objects of interest.

– Show card and get the child to perform this activity or bring the object.
– Watching.
– Following instructions in colouring.

Teaching Propositions:
Learn propositions during play / functional – show card.
Follow commands – verbal / written
Watching – with picture – pic/word

Once the child is familiar with around 200 words, is quick to point/pick/perform, shift of sentences.
– Put a spoon inside the jam bottle.
– Roll the big red carpet …… etc.

Indicators of Math Skills:

  • Awareness of time (may be the child knows exactly when the session is over)
  • Size (shoes, dress etc)
  • Awareness of days (maybe the child knows Sunday since the parents are on leave)
  • Takes a particular number of chocolates.
  • Brings particular number of plates for dinner.
  • Know directions. (good spatial ability)

Math concepts:
It has been seen that children with autism pick up math concepts very quickly since it is highly methodical and logical. When taught with concrete objects initially, they easily move on to abstract concepts. The performance is at best only when they are challenged. Repetitions and low level activities result in dependent performance.

This is only a frame work of the curriculum which can be introduced to the child. The teaching programmes are generic and may need to be modified for each child.